What if Roger Goodell Were Black?
I’m pretty sure a good number of you, especially the football fans among you, have read the article by Touré in ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com about the circumstances that would surround Michael Vick if he were white. I thought it was well-written and a pretty decent insight into how race really does factor into sports and perception, but it caught a lot of fire from Black folks (many who were unaware that the writer is, in fact, Black) about what the intent was, especially when this really silly (and really funny) picture was posted with it.
Ladies and gentleman, meet White Vick. He has all the physical skills of Mike Vick but he also has the “intangibles” and “leadership” skills that Vick lacks. He’s a “high character guy” and a “natural leader on the field.” He’s a “born winner” and hasn’t lost a game since high school. He’s classy and played in a “pro-style offense.” In other words, he’s white. Mike Vick and other Black Quarterbacks are usually “athletic,” “naturally gifted,” have “mechanics issues,” and “character issues.” They play in styles that may never translate to the NFL or whatever (despite the fact that two of the top 5 greatest QBs of all time, Elway and Young, were not pocket passers and rank among the all-time great QBs in rushing yards). That’s why I like White Vick so much. He’s a locker room leader and a field general, and he’s a guy you really want on your team. But this isn’t about him.
This is about the NFL in general. Instead of wondering what would happen if a guy who has been hurt by his race so much were a member of the privileged class, I wondered what would happen if Roger Goodell were black? What would happen if a black man ran the most successful sports league in the world? What would happen if he weren’t so paternalistic and didn’t treat black athletes like children? Well, here’s Black Goodell, a.k.a. Jamal Goodell.Jamal Goodell would be a totally different guy than Roger. The days of the No Fun League would be over. Players like Ochocinco would flourish in their ability to celebrate their love for the game. People would realize that showing that you are having fun and being “classy” aren’t mutually exclusive. Imagine this guy dapping players up after they get drafted and hosting cookouts at the Pro Bowl. Players would love him. Lockout? Please. Jamal Goodell is cheap in the first place. Rookies wouldn’t be getting these huge contracts like they would now. Everyone would have TV money because terrible teams would get contracts with TV One and BET. Just imagine the TV One Fried Chicken Wednesday Game between Detroit and Carolina. So much potential
Every team would have a band, and instead of boring halftime shows featuring whichever Sharpe brother sounds like he’s always having a seizure, we get battles of the bands and cheerleaders twerking to club songs and shit. Imagine the Super Bowl having a Kanye x Jay-Z x Beyonce x Fetus performance of the century? It would set ratings records. Hell, can we get a Lingerie Football tie-in game?
Imagine that. Jamal Goodell would increase the brand of football. Instead of suspending and fining players who act stupid, Jamal would threaten to tell their baby mamas their hotel room numbers during away games or threaten to trade them to Buffalo, where strip clubs are few and far in between. I guarantee you people would stop shooting themselves and running over police officers then. But seriously, who better to connect with a league full of black talent from (usually) poor backgrounds than a guy like them? How can Roger Goodell, who rounds out neatly the list of the hundred whitest people on the planet (remind me to write that blog post soon), ever really understand Mike Vick’s struggles with not having parents around or growing up around drug addicts where dog fighting is accepted and part of life? How can he relate to Black athletes who do whatever they can to get money because they never had it and who don’t fit the “character” mold the league so often touts?
He can’t. Despite the majority of skill players, name recognition, and money being owed to black players, the white players will always be the prototypes. Mike Vick’s greatness will be judged compared to Steve Young’s. Quarterbacks who can run will always be considered failures if they can’t adapt to pocket systems, even if they can do things players like Manning and Brady can never ever do. The NFL, like many sports leagues, will smack of paternalism and gain billions on the backs of athletes that it will never truly adore or give the status of its white greats, even as perhaps one of the most racially accomplished and sensitive sports leagues out there. This is why we need Jamal Goodell. For the good of the game that we all love.
I leave you with